Y’all. I have a problem.
Okay, so I really have lots of problems, but I’m going to focus on only one today. I have Author Outburst Syndrome (AOS) thus I randomly shout things about my characters when I’m supposed to be attending to daily life.
When I was younger, I used to keep all of the information about my fictional characters locked away deep in my subconscious. Then, one day, I had what I like to call the Carpool Epiphany. I had written The Happy Hour Choir, and I had just found an agent. We were revising and getting ready to shop when it hit me. I slammed on the brakes and almost got rear-ended while shouting, “Hooooo-ly shit!”
Why would I do such a thing? Because I had been gathering wool, as writers are wont to do, and had realized that a certain character in Anderson’s Funeral Home also played a part in the The Happy Hour Choir. Then I realized that my characters in Bittersweet Creek made a habit of frequenting the bar in The Happy Hour Choir. In other words, I had been writing a series the whole time, but I hadn’t realized it because I wrote Happy Hour in 2009. I had written the first draft of what would become Better Get to Livin’ back in 2006, and I wrote the first complete draft of what would become Bittersweet Creek back in 2007.* Blessedly, the person behind me did not hit me, and the children had already left the vehicle.
Just a year or so ago, The Mister and I were sitting at the breakfast room table enjoying a leisurely breakfast when I blurted, “Wallace Dandridge is a veternarian!” My husband replied, “Good for him?” At that point I realized that I must’ve been suffering from AOS for a very long time because he wasn’t even shaken in the least. As to Wallace? He’s been around since 2001. It took me 14 years to figure out his actual profession.
Something similar happened with the protagonist of Wallace’s story, Persephone Willis. I thought I had totally given up on that novel when something funny happened on the way to publishing Better Get To Livin’. I’ll be darned if Persephone didn’t walk into the Holy Roller and ask Presley to cut her hair. I actively fought it. I said, “No, I don’t want to tell your story! You were a problem child while I was trying to finish my thesis! Go away, Persephone Willis!” Alas, she’s in there, and she’s arguing her case to be a part of the book that will be out in 2018.
Sadly, I find my AOS is getting worse as I write, probably because I keep writing stories that are set in the same town and thus characters keep reappearing. When I was writing Bittersweet Creek, I was having a devil of a time trying to figure out what to do with the pit bulls. You see, I don’t personally believe all pit bulls are evil, but I knew the breed would appeal to my villain, Curtis. I also know he would make them mean. I needed to get the dogs away from my heroine without actually harming them. I fretted over what to do with those poor dogs for ages. Finally, I had one of my AOS moments, “Pete Gates is the local Turtleman!”
See, that’s the sort of exclamation that could get the nice young men in the clean white coats to come take me away. Maybe, just maybe, you’re familiar with the reality show Call of the Wildman which is a show in which Ernie Brown, Jr. aka Turtleman will come to remove animals that are bothering you. I’d had a soft spot for the Gates brothers since The Happy Hour Choir, and it only made sense that Pete was the kind of guy who got along better with animals than humans. He took care of those pit bulls for me–totally reformed them if you’re wondering–and I anticipate he’ll be back to help Persephone. Even if I don’t want to tell her story. She’s being awfully pushy about the whole thing.
I tell you all of this in the hopes that I am not alone. If just one of you feels better for crazy outbursts about people who don’t exist, then my work here is done. For your amusement, I leave you with a few more of my favorite author outbursts:
“OMG, Mrs. Morris is a Baptist elder!”
“His name is Goat Cheese because he wants to raise goats!”
“[Redacted] is sleeping with [redacted]?! No, no, no, no!”
“Ginger Belmont went off and bought a big-A box of condoms?” (I blushed while writing that. I still can’t believe the woman did that.)
“Caroline Anderson is not [redacted]!” (If you’ve read Better Get to Livin’ then you know she’s up to something. I plan to tell you in a special free read.)
“She’s going to give that cat to Persephone!”
“There’s going to be a llama in the drive-through Nativity!”
So there you go. On the off-chance you thought I was normal, I have proven you wrong. I suffer from AOS, which is kinda like iOS but without all of the updates. What about you? Writers, how do you communicate with your imaginary friends? Readers, do you have these revelations about characters after you’ve read a book?
*The idea and some rough drafts for Bittersweet Creek came earlier. Not as early as 2002 but before I actually saw Sweet Home Alabama. Imagine my chagrin when a movie stole my thunder about a secret country marriage. *sigh*